Cars we love: buying a second-hand Alfa Romeo 147
Why buy a boring hatchback when for the same money you can have an Alfa? Anyone who loves cars will understand the question. And, now that the make’s cars are now reliable enough, writes Ray Castle of motors.co.uk, it really does make sense to consider an Alfa as a real alternative to the ordinary models you might otherwise buy.
The 147 is part of a new generation of cars that’s seen Alfa move towards the mainstream while still showing the individuality and sparkle you’d want. It’s one of the prettiest of small hatchbacks and one that shows plenty of sporting intent in the way that it rides and steers. Its range of engines is pretty special, too.
But it is also practical in the way all similar cars are – space to take five at a time plus room for a sensible amount of luggage.
Interested? Read on for the motors.co.uk expert guide to buying a good ‘un.
How much should I pay?
Just £2000 gets an early car, say a 1.6 TS Tourismo from 2001 on 51-reg, and showing 100,000 miles. For that little you should see a year’s MoT test and at least some service history. But for best value it’s preferable to scoop together £5000 or so. That’ll buy typically a 2005, 55-reg 2.0 Lusso five-door that’ll have covered 55,000 miles.
Increase the budget to £8000 and you’ll have the price of one of the in-demand diesel models, here a 1.9JTD Turismo three-door that’s on a 57-reg and will have covered 40,000 miles.
The most you’ll pay sensibly is £11,000 for a 2008, 08-reg 1.9 JTDM Sport that’ll have covered 10,000 miles, although you’d need to lay out a little more to get a V6-engined 3.2 GTA, the range’s performance model.
Which model is best?
The 1.6 petrol is the smallest in the range but is a good bet because it is lively and suits the 147 well, while keeping insurance and fuel costs sensible. The 2.0 litre has real fizz and the choice for older, experienced drivers who can afford its higher insurance. The 3.2-litre GTA is too fast and furious to make it a sensible all-rounder. If you prefer a diesel there are 1.9 diesels in two stages of tune, offering 115bhp or 140bhp. As this is supposed to be a sporty car, we’d go for the 140bhp.
You pick between Turismo and Lusso trim, although Sport turned up in the last years of production to sit midway between the two. On early Turismo models, air conditioning and alloy wheels are extras, so bear that in mind. Most Lussos have leather seats, although these weren’t standard on older cars. The range underwent a mild facelift in 2006, gaining a broader, chrome-edged grille and reworked headlamps. Newer cars are also far better equipped, offering four airbags and anti-lock brakes as standard.
Where should I buy?
If you’re after a car up to five years old, a main dealer is a good bet. Their cars aren’t the cheapest buy you should expect them to be properly checked and first-rate. Get one under the marque’s approved used scheme and it’ll come with a 12-month warranty, a full service history and a history check. For older cars, hunt down an independent dealer that specialises in 147s. Car supermarkets may have one or two but the car isn’t one we’d expect them to stock in quantity. Likewise, you could pick up a cherished car at a bargain price direct from its owner.
What should I watch for?
The days when Alfas were horribly temperamental are (mostly) past. And for the 147 rust is no longer a major worry because all its main panels are well protected.
That said, the 147 is an enthusiast’s car and they do see hard use. Your biggest single worry is the cambelt, which should be renewed after 36,000 miles. Ignore this time scale and the belt may slip or snap, causing massive damage to the engine. Alfa set the change interval for 147s at 72,000 miles originally but halved it once too many cars broke theirs at around 60,000 miles. You should also ask whether the part that drives the water pump has been replaced too, because it should be.
Clutches last typically 70,000-90,000 miles – one that bites high in the pedal travel may be on its way out. Electrics can be a concern so check that everything works and that all the warning lights come on and go out as they should. Electric windows can become lazy – so check that they all work correctly.
Engines are long lasting if correctly serviced. Be aware, though that ‘twin spark’ engines have two spark plugs per cylinder. These need changing after 30,000 miles, but add a fair bit to servicing costs when a change is due.
For more great car buying advice and to view and buy new and second-hand cars, click on to motors.co.uk. Surf the web using your mobile phone? Go to http://mobile.motors.co.uk/ or text ‘motors’ to 65056 and we’ll send you a link. If you’ve an iPhone, you can download the motors.co.uk app for free. Go to the ‘utilities’ section of the iTunes store.